HBC de­nies de­cep­tive pric­ing ac­cu­sa­tions from watch­dog

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - ALEKSANDRA SAGAN

Canada’s com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog says it is su­ing Hud­son’s Bay Co. over al­leged de­cep­tive pric­ing prac­tices — an ac­cu­sa­tion the re­tailer de­nies.

The Com­pe­ti­tion Bureau claims HBC mis­led cus­tomers over the prices of mat­tresses and box springs sold to­gether since at least March 2013 un­til now, ac­cord­ing to a no­tice of ap­pli­ca­tion filed to the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal.

HBC al­legedly of­fered sleep sets at “grossly in­flated reg­u­lar prices” and then ad­ver­tised deep dis­counts on them to pro­mote sales, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment.

“The reg­u­lar prices of the sleep sets were so in­flated above what the market would bear that sales at the reg­u­lar price were vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent,” reads the fil­ing.

HBC listed a Mount Royal tight top queen sleep set at $1,998 and then a sale price of $788 in 2014, for ex­am­ple, but never sold one at the reg­u­lar price, the agency claims.

The re­tailer dis­agrees with the bureau’s po­si­tion and will vig­or­ously op­pose their ap­pli­ca­tion to the Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal, com­pany spokesper­son Tif­fany Bourre said in a state­ment. “We be­lieve our mat­tress pric­ing process is fair, com­pet­i­tive and in line with in­dus­try stan­dards and the Com­pe­ti­tion Act,” she said.

HBC has not yet filed a re­sponse to the bureau’s no­tice of ap­pli­ca­tion and Bourre did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a ques­tion on whether the com­pany planned to do so.

The agency also al­leges HBC mis­led con­sumers by sug­gest­ing it was sell­ing its re­main­ing in­ven­tory dur­ing clear­ance and endof-line pro­mo­tions, which im­ply the low price is per­ma­nent un­til all re­main­ing in­ven­tory is sold. How­ever, HBC al­legedly re­plen­ished its in­ven­tory dur­ing such sales by or­der­ing new sleep sets from man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The le­gal ac­tion against the re­tailer is about pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with ac­cu­rate and truth­ful in­for­ma­tion when they’re de­cid­ing what to pur­chase, Com­mis­sioner of Com­pe­ti­tion John Pec­man said in a state­ment.

“Sav­ings claims must al­ways re­flect real dis­counts,” he said. “The bureau will con­tinue to take all ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion in or­der to en­sure that con­sumers are pro­vided with hon­est in­for­ma­tion.”

The bureau said it wants HBC to stop th­ese prac­tices and pay an ad­min­is­tra­tive mon­e­tary penalty of an un­spec­i­fied amount.

It is also seek­ing for HBC to pay the costs as­so­ci­ated with the pro­ceed­ing and any fur­ther re­lief the com­mis­sioner may ask for and the tri­bunal has the dis­cre­tion to per­mit.

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